Feds boost telehealth with $4.5 million in funding

Two telehealth projects in Eastern Ontario received a $4.5 million shot in the arm Tuesday from the federal government.

Eastern Ontario Telehealth Network (EOTN), led by Pembroke General Hospital, is slated to receive $3million. EOTN’s mission is to link 16 community hospitals and one district health council to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI), Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Sisters of Charity of Ottawa Health Services.

The UOHI’s Regionally Accessible Secure Cardiac Health Records project will receive the remaining $1.5 million. UOHI chief information officer and assistant professor Dr. Shu-Tim Cheung says its goal is to develop an Internet-based secure cardiac health records system that will benefit doctors and patients. He says by moving to an electronic system the health care system will be streamlined. For example, physicians could electronically refer patients to UOHI. Referring doctors will also be able to track a patient’s progress (view test results and the diagnosis) and communicate with cardiologists.

“Clinical services are important for the patient, but at the same time you have to look into how you monitor the patient remotely,” says Cheung.

The service doesn’t end when the patient is discharged from the UOHI.

“The referring physician and the cardiologist can confer on a mutually agreeable care mapping for the patient to be followed up in the future” says Cheung. “The whole idea and the concept is to assist the referring physicians to follow up with their patient when the patient is discharged back to the community, because most of the communities are still at least an hour away from the centre.”

Cheung says this is the majority of the money will be spent on developing the public key infrastructure to keep patient data secure. Money will also be spent on developing 24/7 data availability. He says it needs to convert all the existing information at the UPHI into a Web-based format.

The funding come from the Canada Health Infostructure Partnerships Program (CHIPP), a two-year, $80 million federal program launched in June, 2000.

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